Student debt exceeds income for 76% of professional degrees: WSJ

  • The WSJ found that 76% of professional programs leave graduates with more debt than income after 2 years on the job.
  • This is the case for all US programs in dentistry, veterinary medicine, and chiropractic medicine.
  • Loans for graduate and vocational programs have some of the highest interest rates.

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If you’re hoping to get rich from a professional degree, think again: student debt could prevent this from happening.

A new Wall Street Journal report has found that about 76% of professional programs – degrees that help prepare students for a specific field – have left recent students with more debt than their earnings after two years of work, according to an analysis of nearly 500 programs in the United States. As the Journal noted, it’s much worse than other types of degrees. For master’s programs, 22% have such high debt, and it is lower for bachelor’s degrees, at 11%.

Additionally, the Journal noted that for chiropractic, dentistry, and veterinary medicine in particular, every professional program in the United States for which data is available has a median debt that exceeds the median earnings two years after graduation. diploma.

“My explanation is that veterinary medicine is a very emotional profession, like nursing,” Peter Eyre, professor and dean emeritus of Virginia-Maryland Veterinary College at Virginia Tech, told The Journal. “Becoming a veterinarian offers a huge emotional reward because of the human-animal bond. “

He added that as a result, students “seem willing to borrow too much or pay too much for what they get.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vets in 2020 earned an average of $ 99,000, dentists earned an average of $ 164,000, and chiropractors earned an average of $ 71,000, which is not enough to cover most of the debts. professional degrees greater than $ 200,000.

The Journal said its analysis excluded medical school degrees because graduates seeking such licenses are required to complete low-paying residencies.

As Insider previously reported, student loan interest rates for graduates and professionals are among the highest, currently at 5.28%, and the average student debt for a graduate student is $ 91,000, compared to the average of $ 36,000 for undergraduates.

Students pursuing professional programs can also take out Grad PLUS loans – a type of federal loan that has the highest interest rate of 6.28% and covers up to tuition.

The enormous indebtedness of students seeking a professional degree is nothing new. In 2018, the Journal reported a 37-year-old orthodontist who owed $ 1,060,945 in student loans. Due to the high interest rates, he was paying around 10% of his monthly income on his student debt, which was still not enough to meet the interest.

And debt can often last a lifetime. At 61, Gwen Carney previously told Insider that she didn’t think she would ever be able to pay off her $ 75,000 student debt thanks to her graduate degree – something she pursued. in the hope that it would help support her family. She is not sure how she will afford to make payments next year once the pandemic break is over.

“The restart of payments makes me very anxious because I have to find that extra $ 200,” Carney said. “I just don’t have it.”


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